Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease

Original Article

Ineffective morphine treatment regimen for the control of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome in buprenorphine- and methadone-exposed infants

A. L. Gordona1a2 c1, O. V. Lopatkoa2, R. R. Haslama3, H. Staceya3, V. Pearsona4, A. Woodsa4, A. Fiska4 and J. M. Whitea2a5

a1 School of Nursing and Midwifery, Sansom Institute for Health Research, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

a2 Discipline of Pharmacology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

a3 Women's and Children's Hospital, Adelaide, Australia

a4 Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

a5 School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, Sansom Institute for Health Research, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

Abstract

This study aimed to determine if morphine is effective in ameliorating Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) symptoms to non-opioid-exposed control levels in methadone- and buprenorphine-exposed infants. A prospective, non-randomized comparison study with flexible dosing was undertaken in a large teaching maternity hospital in Australia. Twenty-five infants in the groups of buprenorphine-, methadone- and control non-opioid-exposed infants were compared (total n = 75 infants). Oral morphine sulphate (1 mg/ml) was administered every 4 h to opioid agonist-exposed infants. Modified Finnegan Withdrawal Scale (MFWS) scores determined dosing: score of 8–10: 0.5 mg/kg/day, 11–13: 0.7 mg/kg/day and 14+: 0.9 mg/kg/day. Withdrawal score, amount of morphine administered and length of hospital stay, were used to assess NAS over a 4-week follow-up period. No controls achieved a score higher than 7 on the MFWS. There was no significant difference in the percentage of infants requiring treatment between methadone (60%) and buprenorphine (48%) infants. For treated infants, significantly (P < 0.01) more morphine was administered to methadone (40.07 ± 3.95 mg) compared with buprenorphine infants (22.77 ± 4.29 mg) to attempt to control NAS. Following treatment initiation, significantly more (P < 0.01) methadone (87%) compared with buprenorphine infants (42%) continued to exceed scoring thresholds for morphine treatment requirement, and non-opioid-exposed control infant scores. For treated infants, there was no significant difference in length of hospital stay between methadone and buprenorphine infants. Morphine treatment was not entirely effective in ameliorating NAS to non-opioid-exposed control symptom levels in methadone or buprenorphine infants. The regimen may be less effective in methadone compared with buprenorphine infants.

(Online publication April 02 2012)

Correspondence

c1 Address for correspondence: A. L. Gordon, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Sansom Institute for Health Research, University of South Australia, GPO Box 2471, Adelaide, South Australia 5001, Australia. Email andrea.gordon@unisa.edu.au

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